The New York State Constitution mandates
that every 20 years voters will be asked the following question: “Shall there
be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” The next
referendum will be held on November 7, 2017. It presents a constitutional
choice of profound importance; a once in a generation opportunity for the State
to reinvent itself. We will not have
this opportunity again for another 20 years.
To help lay the foundation for a
serious and thoughtful public dialogue regarding the mandatory referendum, the
New York State Bar Association established the Committee on the New York
Constitution. Henry M. Greenberg of Albany chairs the committee. Its
distinguished members are listed on committee roster.
The committee has issued a series of
nonpartisan, informational reports dealing with issues that might be considered
at a possible constitutional convention. The reports have been approved by the
House of Delegates of the New York State Bar Association.
Whether New Yorkers Should Approve the 2017 Ballot Question Calling for a
Constitutional Convention, June 17, 2017
The report offers a primer of the pros and cons of a
constitutional convention, or “ConCon.” The committee “recommends that the
State Bar support the convention call, primarily because a convention presents
the one practical opportunity this generation will likely have to modernize and
restructure New York's court system.” At its June 17, 2017 meeting in Cooperstown, the Association's House of Delegates voted 111 to 28 (with one member abstaining) to endorse a Constitutional Convention, or “ConCon.” A day earlier, its Executive Committee voted unanimously to support a convention.
The Judiciary Article of the New York State Constitution–Opportunities to Restructure and Modernize the New York Courts, January 27, 2017
New York’s Unified Court System was established the 1960s. “Despite its name,” the report observes, “the Unified Court System is anything but—with its patchwork quilt of 11 different trial-level courts and multiple levels of appellate courts.” It is the nation’s most complex court, resulting in added costs and delays for litigants. The report identifies more than a dozen issues that would be “ripe” for consideration at a constitutional convention.
The Conservation Article in the State Constitution (Article XIV), November 5, 2016
In 1894, New York voters ratified a constitutional amendment that mandates that the state Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks and Catskills be kept “forever wild.” Since then, the report notes, there has never been broad-based support for repealing the measure. In 1969, voters approved what was intended to be a “Conservation Bill of Rights,” which is largely unenforceable. The report also points to obsolete aspects of Article XIV.
Constitutional Home Rule, April 2, 2016 (State-local government relationships)
In theory, Constitutional Home Rule grants authority to local governments to decide how to best govern their communities in matters of local concern. However, over the years, those protections have been eroded by actions of the state Legislature (such as imposing unfunded mandates on localities) and judicial decisions. Without taking sides in the debate, the report says Constitutional Home Rule is an issue “ripe for consideration and debate for all concerned.”
The Establishment of a Preparatory State Commission on a Constitutional Convention, November 7, 2015
The New York State Constitution, about six times longer than the U.S. Constitution, establishes the structure of state government, enumerates rights of individuals and governs our courts, schools, local governments, public finance and the daily lives on New Yorkers. It requires that voters be asked every 20 years whether to hold a convention to examine if the state Constitution should be revised. Prior to November 7, 2017 vote, the report urges state officials to create a nonpartisan preparatory commission to educate the public about the complex issues involved.
June 19, 2017: NYS Bar Association Supports a Constitutional Convention to Restructure the NYS Judiciary, Enhance Voter Participation and Modernize and Streamline the NYS Constitution
June 12, 2017: Vote of New York State Constitutional Convention Tops Agenda of State Bar Meeting
February 16, 2017: Simplifying State's Court System Is 'Ripe' Topic For Possible Constitutional Convention, Says State Bar
December 8, 2016: Forever Wild Clause of NYS Constitution Unlikely to be Altered by Possible Constitutional Convention, Says State Bar Association
June 24, 2016: Governor Cuomo Should Establish Commission on Constitution to Prepare for 2017 Vote, Says New York State Bar Association
April 11, 2016: Governor Cuomo Asked by New York State Bar Association to Prepare for 2017 Vote on State Constitution
April 5, 2016: Balance of Power Between New York State and Local Governments has Shifted, Needs Further Study, Says State Bar Association
November 13, 2015: New York State Bar Association Calls on State Government to Prepare Now for Statewide Vote on State Constitution in 2017
July 24, 2015: New York State Bar Association President Miranda Forms Committee to Study NYS Constitution
A NY Constitutional Convention: How Our State Constitution Impacts the Practice of Law, September 26, 2016: This CLE program focused on on the potential impact a Constitutional Convention may have on the legal profession and the public at large.
How Our State Constitution Impacts the
Practice of Law and the Lives of New Yorkers, January 27, 2016. The 2016 Presidential Summit of the Annual Meeting featured
a panel with Dr. Gerald
Benjamin, SUNY at New Paltz; Professor Richard Briffault, Columbia Law School; Henry
M. Greenberg of Albany (Greenberg Traurig), chair of the Association’s
Committee on the New York State Constitution; and Richard Ravitch, former lieutenant governor of
Boot Camp for Journalists, December 7, 2015. Five leading authorities discuss the state Constitution and the convention process. It was co-sponsored by the New York State Bar Association, the
Rockefeller Institute of Government, Government
Law Center of Albany Law School, State League of Women Voters, Siena
Research Institute and New York News Publishers Association.
House of Delegates, November 7, 2015. Excerpts of
discussion about convening a constitutional convention and the need for a
Past State Bar President David P. Miranda announces the
Committee on the New York State Constitution, July 24, 2015.
The New York State Constitution
Making a Modern Constitution: The
Prospects for Constitutional Reform in New York (2016), 414 pages. Edited by Rose Mary Bailly and
Scott Fein, Government Law Center of Albany Law School. Published by the New York State Bar
Association, 2016. Download a free digital copy or
purchase a paper copy here.
York State Constitutional Convention 2017, Rockefeller Institute of Government
Changing New York's Constitution, Capital Tonight (March 10, 2016)
David Miranda, Capital Tonight (November 20, 2015)
David Miranda, Capital Tonight (July 29, 2015)